The room is white and smells chemical-clean, and for a moment, she feels panic. Then she realises that she is in a hospital, and doesn't feel very reassured by the discovery. There is a tall, thin vase on the side table, with a single dusky pink rose in it, and a few cards. As she looks at the rose, the door opens with a soft creak, and someone quietly walks in. She doesn't recognise him, but she experiences a rush of affection for him that baffles her.
"Hey," he says, standing awkwardly with his hands in the pockets of his jeans.
"Hey," she says. Her voice comes out as a soft croak, but she doesn't mind, and smiles at him.
Kara watches from the door, unnoticed, and the rest of the Gifted stand behind him. "She's not Shima anymore," he explains quietly to his companions. "She's a hollow shell with no memory."
"Did we do the right thing?" Yuuta asks quietly, looking uncomfortable. Kara smiles at him reassuringly.
"Don't worry - we did," he says. "She died and came back. It's less painful for her than living as Shima would have. The same thing happened to her sister."
"So her sister isn't dead?" Jiroh asks, confused.
"No," Kara says, smile widening. "And she lived happily with her lover and had a son with him. And I believe you know that son pretty well."
"Who is it?" Fuji asks. Kara beckons him close, then whispers the name in his ear. Fuji's eyes snap open in surprise, and then he smiles broadly in amusement.
"Kara! Tell us!" Jiroh begs, looking as if he might die of curiosity.
"I'll give you a hint," Kara says, laughing. "He's cleaning up Ryoma's living room right now because you ditched him." The Gifted fell silent, their faces pictures of varying degrees of confusion and surprise.
"Shima's nephew is my father?" Ryoma asks incredulously. Kara nods, then bursts into laughter at the horrified looks of the Gifted.
"What's going on?" Momoshiro asks, poking his head out of the hospital room. Ryoma buries his face in his hands with a groan, and Fuji smiles.
"Tell you in a minute, Momo. How is she?" he asks.
Momoshiro, still puzzled, runs a hand over his hair. "She's all right. No memories, just like Kara said. Do we call her An or Shima?"
"An," Kara says, smiling and giving Momo a pat on the shoulder. "It'll simplify things a little. She still has An's face, after all. Her hair and eyes are the only things different."
The group is shooed away by a nurse for being too loud after they tell Momoshiro about Shima's sister, and went out for some lunch, not wanting to face Nanjiroh until they're sure they can look at him without snickering or cringing.
Jiroh and Atobe sit on either side of Ryoma, both with one arm around the younger boy's shoulders, and Ryoma does his best not to blush when the others tease him. It doesn't work out so well, which leads Atobe and Jiroh to tease him too. Kara pays for the meal, and they go back to Ryoma's house to help with the rest of the cleaning - which turns out to be most of it, because Nanjiroh is napping instead of cleaning.
At the end of the day, Kara returns to being Karupin. Atobe, Jiroh, and Dan finally leave the house for their own homes. The storm begins to let up, leaving Ryoma's scar aching a little. The Core stands in the living room, absently rubbing his arm, and decides that the house was too empty.
He wonders how far Jiroh and Atobe have gone by now, and whether he should bother going after them. Ryoma found he doesn't like to sleep by himself anymore. Not that he needs to sleep with someone. He just... prefers it. As the rain picks up again, Ryoma grabs his jacket and walks out of the house, only to find them walking back up to the house, looking like wet cats.
He smirks and let them in.